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Wheaton to restrict medicinal marijuana dispensaries

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 12:59 a.m. CDT

WHEATON – As the effective date for Illinois' medicinal marijuana bill draws near, the Wheaton City Council has passed an ordinance amendment limiting where in the city dispensaries for the drug can be located.

At a Dec. 2 meeting, the council voted 6 to 1 to allow the facilities only in its M-1 manufacturing districts.

State law already dictates that dispensaries cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a school or day care, are not allowed on residential use property and cannot share space with a physician.

Municipalities cannot ban the dispensary sale of medicinal marijuana. However, the ordinance amendment will limit the scope of dispensary locations to areas that often house other "adult use" properties, said Jim Kozik, director of planning and development, at a previous city council planning session.

The lone dissenting vote Dec. 2 came from council member Todd Scalzo, who said the state statute already limited distribution sufficiently.

"I never really grasped the rational basis for this restriction, other than to express some sort of disapproval for what the state legislature has determined to be a lawful activity," he said.

Scalzo said the city's geographic limitations on the dispensaries were arbitrary, and that the dispensaries will become commonplace in a few years.

"There are vacancies in Danada, there's vacancies in downtown, there's landlords that are looking for renters, and this might give Wheaton an advantage if we don't restrict it to the M-1 district," he said.

Council member Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti said that marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, is still a controlled substance and because unknowns remain as to the effects of the state law, many municipalities such as Wheaton are restricting dispensaries to a certain area.

Council member John Rutledge echoed Pacino Sanguinetti's point, but said that as the industry develops, the city could reconsider its stance.

"We can loosen the restrictions later easier than we can tighten them, and I think that it would be good for us to at least have some experience with how this works for a while before we do anything different," he said.

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